Sunday, December 28, 2008
Today I posted a mission statement and some ideas that I have, and I would love if you all could take a look at it and throw in your two cents as well. I know it has a long way to go -- it's only in its infancy -- but I really enjoy and have good feelings about the future with it.
Check it out: Women's Health Products
Sunday, December 14, 2008
We're thinking about West Virginia. I know, I know, even I have that "uh . . . why?" kind of feeling, but all prejudices aside it is a beautiful state and close to everything I love: DC, southern PA, family in Ohio (not so much the Illinois family, but unfortunately if we want mountains that can't be helped), the South, the East coast, and New England. We have to be in the mountains and WV is pretty much a point from which we'll easily be able to travel to a lot of different places. Plus, there's not a lot of development going on there which is very important to us. We've started looking at real estate prices and school districts . . . you know, all the important stuff.
Writing is going well. Because I've always struggled with having a career or having a family, I've taken the past month and a half or so to really sort myself out. Although I've felt some guilt over not having a job, I've made good use of the time and figured a lot out. I'm going to do both (career and family, that is). My mind is firmly set and for once, I have the focus and determination. Previously I've been known to get gung-ho on a project and burn out too quickly to see it finished, but I've been working on pacing myself. At any rate, I've decided that by the time we move next fall, my income will be enough for us to live on. We're both so passionate about raising our family together and not going through what we've seen so many people go through with jobs that now I actually have a reason to succeed. All my earlier attempts were for my own desires, but having a family changes that.
The baby's coming soon and I'm getting a little nervous. There's still so much to do to get ready, and we don't really have that much stuff for her (clothes . . . diapers . . . blankets -- you know, the essentials). I know it will come in time but I still stress a little.
All things aside, we're doing really well. We feel like we finally have our dreams figured out (for the most part anyway) and a goal and plan to reach them. Part of me is dreading moving again so soon, but I just want to feel settled. I'm tired of being in-between like I've been for the past five years. It's time to go home, and if home is where the heart is ours has always been in the mountains, in the South.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Because I need to be reminded of happiness. The music of hundreds of birds is joyful, not tainted by fear or pain.
Because I like to take care of them. What better joy is there than to provide a basic need for something so uncomplaining? It fulfills some intrinsic craving I have to make everything ok for everyone.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
We realized that we don't want to be stuck in Illinois, that we're ready to truly feel settled. Being here kind of feels like being on a bus stop, just another pause on the journey.
So, we're going to head south. We're planning a road trip for sometime this spring to scout out the potential areas, and by next fall we'll be packing up. We have a lot to do before then, bills to pay off and a savings account to build up; however, it feels good to at least have a direction. God willing, that will be the resting place for our hearts . . . May my restless spirit find some peace . . .
I've been putting quite a bit of time into building up a passive income for us. Slow going, but I've got determination. It's all part of the dream, baby.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Seriously, at least look at the picture: Tiny Log Cabin
What do ya'll think?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Does anybody question this?? Does anybody care??
It's a sad day when we can't really trust the food we buy in stores. Yet one more reason we're going to grow our own. If ya'll want we can grow some for you too.
Monday, November 10, 2008
It's interesting to me that there are sooo many crops farmers can add, with just a little imagination.
The article that I found that info on was on Hobby Farm.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
His vision is to turn more (if not all) of Chicago's vacant lots into farms. This is very very cool to me -- for not only is it employing low-income people who might otherwise not have a job at all, but also helping to provide one of the country's hugest urban areas with some of the freshest food available. That's what I call progress!
City Farm even takes some of the local restaurants kitchen "wastes" for their compost pile.
They provide education on food production to visiting schools, too.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Guess if it's meant to be it will happen, but that isn't making the wait any easier. It needed a lot of work but that's exactly what we've been looking for and even wanting. We want to put our sweat and tears into a place and watch it become productive. Damn our blasted credit that prevents us from buying something right now.
It's all part of the dream, though. Working, waiting, for that land that we will someday call ours.
Monday, October 27, 2008
My dream/goal, or what I've been working on: freelance writing. I'm taking a creative writing course to "unblock" and it actually is helping, but I have such a difficult time motivating myself to work when I doubt that I will make any money. I know in my head that I can, but I don't trust myself. Call me self-destructive . . . I prefer artistic.
Anyway, it's also been really hard for me to not be outside as much. I'm such a free spirit that being stuck living in town is killing me when all I'm craving is the wide open spaces and room to stretch. I know it's coming but I can't bring myself to focus on the present.
We are going to look at a farm this weekend though. It's about an hour north and the owner is just looking for people to bring it back to a sustainable working farm. He's willing to make a deal on the rent depending on how much work we do on the place. It has a little over 8 acres and a ton of outbuildings so I'd like to see it. Who knows, it might be a good possibility. I just don't want to get stuck in this area though so I don't know how long we would be there, maybe a year or two.
I'm rambling. I get lonely here sometimes.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Anyway, it's not just for the food supply. They also want to use them for cancer research, organ transplants, and production of insulin for humans.
I thought the USDA was bass-ackwards before, but wow.
Oh yeah, and they won't require anything on the label stating that it's a genetically-modified cow, so you won't even know. Don't you feel better?
My thing is, nature is already "perfect" the way it is. We are the ones that interfere, screw it up, and then try to fix it so that we can feel superior. Why can't we just leave well enough alone sometimes?
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
While I do stand with the small farmers on this, I have many other reasons as well for not approving of this idea. The main reason is this: it won't work. If their stated goal is to trace disease outbreaks, it will actually do very little to stop them. Sure, we'll know where our infected beef is coming from, but it's still infected. It does nothing to force producers to change their methods and grow a healthier product, it merely "finds" the disease. That makes me feel sooo much better. Not only that, but it won't operate fast enough to catch many of the diseases, so what's the point?
Perhaps they will punish the offending farm or ranch in some way, but I doubt it. I don't believe that will be the case because the initiators of the system has a membership list that includes several of the mega farms and ranches . . . and also two companies that manufacture livestock tracking devices. Interesting.
This system also punishes the small farmers practice organic or sustainable methods and produce the healthiest food for us. Not only will it be expensive for them to implement, but most of their animals spend their time outside, not in huge confinement settings where it will be easy to mark them all at once.
This first draft of the plan called for every animal to be registered, even a family horse. Worse, when the animals are transported (trail rides??) the movement must be recorded beforehand.
Granted, due to all the opposition the founders of this movement decided that it won't be mandatory at the federal level, techinically. But instead of trying to "catch" diseases, why can't we just begin enforcing more humane growing methods to prevent an outbreak from the start? Oh yeah, because that's not profitable. It's sad when our health is a secondary thought to the all-consuming pull of money.
Good article on it: The Truth About the Animal ID Plan
Monday, October 13, 2008
I feel like I am really becoming who I've wanted to be. I've found my heart and my passions and the balance that I had always wondered about the existence of. Life at home is great, to be sure, but inside I have peace. It brings a sense of self to truly know what your loves are and to be actually doing something about them.
My loves: farming and writing. Interests: making money through business and real estate. What I want to do with my life: Invest, raise our kids on a small farm, and write.
As far as to what we are doing about them, we are working with my parents and some realtors right now about getting started in some rental properties in this area. For the time being we will be partnering with my parents until we all get pretty well set up; it's their retirement and our future, so it works well for everyone involved.
For farming, I have realized that I don't want a full-time operation dedicated to supporting us financially (that's what the investing will be for). What I want is a place for us to do what we want with the land, produce our own food, and teach our kids about the importance of work. A small customer base to offset some of the costs is fine, but I want to be able to provide some of our family members and close friends with good, homegrown food. Right now I can only imagine how satisfying that will be, but I'm looking forward to it in the not so distant future.
And writing, well, I've actually been starting on some freelancing. Slow going of course, especially until I get myself used to it again, but I consider it another way to explore myself and hopefully still contribute to our income when the baby gets here. Kenny has been so encouraging and I love him more all the time, because he knows who I am before I do and helps me to realize it. I'm also going to be taking a writing class either this month or next, so that will help me out too.
The baby, yes, the baby. I'm starting to get really excited about February. I'll admit my trepidition and fear for the first few months, but just having her (?) part of me and feeling her develop has . . . changed me inside. I don't know how you can love someone you haven't met yet, but it's amazing. I feel older, like I'm learning about some secret to life that really isn't a secret at all but requires the experience . . . I don't know if that makes sense at all but I feel more complete.
Honestly, we are just really blessed right now.
Monday, October 6, 2008
And yes, I found my dream place . . .
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Surprising to a lot of city folk: agriculture makes up 17% of the nation's jobs. One of FFA's goals is to have 10,000 agricultural education programs in place nationwide by the year 2015.
It's not just the FFA, either. An article in World Magazine comments on increasing interest in "locavores" (people committed to eating locally). The number of farmer's markets around the country is growing, as well as food co-ops and CSAs.
There's also a large trend towards young people starting farms, most of them with little or no agricultural background. Perhaps we as a country are finding a better way to provide, a way that sustains the earth and provides us with a liveable income.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
1. Get another Harley by July '09
2. Go on a cross-country Harley trip
3. Publish a book
4. Be self-employed
5. Learn to swing dance
6. Go white water rafting
7. Create a widely-read blog
8. Backpack Alaska
9. Go on a "croc boat" in Louisiana
10. Get pampered in the Poconos
11. Take a steamboat down the Mississippi
12. Go sky diving
13. See the Derby Day fireworks in Louisville
14. Watch the Iditarod in person
15. Get horses
16. Visit New York at Christmastime
17. Eat a meal by a world-class chef
18. Learn to shoot better
19. Develop some skill on the piano
20. Travel New England in the fall
21. See the Aurora Borealis
22. Visit Prince Edward Island
23. Spend a month in Canada
24. Camp in Montana
25. See our baby smile
The creation of such a list is actually liberating. I discovered a little more about myself: just a year ago, I wanted to travel the world . . . I still do, but now I'm discovering the world in a new light. I'm fascinated by the changes that becoming a parent is bringing. Simply feeling our baby move inside of me brings a thrill that I think otherwise I would've spent my life looking for. Of course traveling is still one of my dreams, for my restless spirit will never go away, but I'm learning that there's a certain peace and contentment to be found in family, and right now I'm really happy. :)
Friday, September 26, 2008
Some people may not care about the changing face of our rural and suburban landscape. To them, it's progress. People are growing, expanding, and want to get out of the city. Why not build more houses? There are more than mere sentimental reasons to preserve our old farmsteads: we need to protect our food, and our future.
Personally, I care deeply about the farms and farm families. I can't explain the ties that I feel to the land or the feeling I get as I gaze over miles of land . . . which in some places takes longer and longer to reach by car. I feel that we are connected to a deeper part of ourselves through nature -- something simpler, more raw, more profound. It is a heritage, and a way of life.
But, there are practical reasons as well that give me cause for concern about the loss of our farmland. For those of you that never wonder where your food comes from (other than out of the box or freezer), think about this:
-With the ever decreasing number of farms in our country, most of agriculture is being taken over by large corporate farms. They have already raised prices and in some areas set up a monopoly over the crops. What will keep grain from turning into another oil fiasco?
-It's not just due to our expanding population, either. In the years 1982 to 1997, the US population grew by 17% while urbanized land (development) grew by 47%. Talk about bad planning! It's not useless land that was permanently plowed under, either. It was some of the best farmland in the country. (American Farmland Trust)
-Every minute we lose 2 acres to development, a number that grew 51% from the eighties to the nineties. What will this decade bring? At our current trend, we stand to lose over 800,000 acres by 2050 in the California Salinas Valley alone.
-If we continue losing small farms, what will happen to our rural communities? Farmers contribute greatly to the local economy. It may all become one industrial-style rape of the land with little deviation.
-The quality of food that comes from small farms is generally much more nutritious. Individual farmers usually take better care of their land and animals, and that benefits all of us.
Septugenarian Dick Courteau said: "Human beings don't weigh the pros and cons very closely for the long term. We just do what seems easiest at the time." Shouldn't we care about where our food is coming from . . . the future of us and our country? We can't ignore the problem and hope the grocery stores will keep supplying us with what we want (which, by the way, will become so exorbitantly overpriced that we'll be forced to start complaining). We also can't depend on importing staples, basics of life. What happens if another world war erupts? Will we starve?
It's time to start thinking about the future, because the future is not very far away.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"Some day food may be the most expensive item you can buy....then people will yell, scream and holler big time, but it will be too late. Until then, things will just continue to progress as they are doing currently. Farmers are being run off of their farms by the dozens, due to the leadership of this country, or should I say 'lack of leadership'. In Japan farmers are practically revered because they feed the multitudes. Where are our priorities anymore? It seems it's more important to have a new Ford Explorer in our driveway than have food on our table at night. " ~ Sarah Brombaugh, Family Farm Corporation
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Conventional farming relies almost 100% on oil. It runs the huge equipment over hundreds and sometimes thousands of acres. Its needed for processing. It transports the food thousands of miles and countless states away.
For those that think our food supply is better in the hands of a few large corporate farms, think about what that actually does to our economy. We can't support that forever. Do we really want to depend on something so volatile -- oil -- when it comes to "what's for dinner"? Granted, more power than ever to the alternative fuel research. But, maybe we have another option as well.
More and more small farms are returning to horse power. Why? Besides the romance of it, their reasons are very practical:
-Horses reproduce. Tractors don't.
-Horses fertilize, elminating another costly aspect of farming.
-Horses can feed themselves off the land. Hello? Cheap.
-Horses don't mind the weather.
It's sustainable, and in this day it's more important than ever to make a move towards sustainable food production. Dick Corteau, in his article "Horse Power" presents a very compelling argument for the place that horses have in our future. While he understands that they can't do what machinery can on large farms, he poses the question: why can't our farms decrease in size so we have more people working in agriculture?
In a business sense, horses makes work. It's the romantic ideal of having a relationship with your livelihood, though, that makes it last. :)
Thursday, September 18, 2008
If we farm sustainable and organically, do we really need genetically modified seeds? (My opinion, by the way: NO) If we keep things simple, the way food production should be, we wouldn't need a huge corporation like Monsanto anyway.
Whose side is the government on? Rather an obvious question, I suppose. It's still shocking to me that so many people are mistreated when all they are trying to do is make a living.
I will probably write more on this topic later, but I wanted to get the article in here.
How do words capture a love of the land you seem to have been born with? It's the way a sunset thrills you, and a sunrise over misty fields touches part of your soul. when you can feel nature pulsing to the beat of your own heart, you know you will never be satisfied unless you immerse ourself in it. You may curse the rain for killing a crop, but inside you revel in it because when the wind is ravaging and the sky is being torn open . . . you feel alive. Some wild and primitive side of you responds and you know that it's the give and the take that yyou love about farming. It's life. It's the joy of helping things grow, it's the gamble against the forces of nature that keeps it interesting. It's hard work that satisfies you. It's helping to get the harvest in before the stomr hits, a camaraderie found in few walks of life. It's beautiful because farms don't, and shouldn't, compete; the must work together to survive.
So yes, I love farming. When our children are growing up I want them to look around their home and realize that Mom and Dad started with a dream and nothing else . . . and that dream became a reality that takes care of the family, as long as we take care of it. What a lesson to teach them!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
On the one hand, just because you buy local doesn't mean that it can't be organic. I work on an organic vegetable farm that enjoys a very large part of the profits at the local farmers market each week. However, a lot of the fruit that I buy at the farm is sprayed with chemicals and I know this; I also know that fruit is difficult to grow organically and many of these farmers have families to feed. Sometimes, you just need the money.
Also from what I have seen, "organic" has turned into nothing more that a politcal game. Numerous regulations and fees does not ensure that the farmer is growing sustainably, which is what the root of organic used to be about. I care about growing without the use of any chemicals because when it comes right down to it, nature works just fine without them. It takes a little more knowledge and skill to use the organic method, but it works. It's amazing how much natural pest repellants are already in nature . . . plus crop rotations . . . companion plantings . . . the list goes on.
Nonetheless, I do not agree with buying organic food grown in Chile. I'm sorry, but that's stupid. One of things that appeals to me about farming is learning about how much actually grows in your area, and when you eat that fresh you really do get all the nutrients you need. Yes, you might not be able to have citrus year round and some nutritionists I'm sure are gasping at that thought of that. But guess what? There's lots of vitamin C in my fresh strawberries, blueberries, and Concord grapes! I like organic growing because it's good for the soil and the plants and the food, but not if it's shaped over thousands of miles for days on end.
I've really grown to enjoy the relationship that I have with my food now. I've never bothered to freeze anything, but this year I brought some veggies and fruit home and we have them stored safely away for use this winter. It's one of the deepest feelings of satisfaction: to know the food in our kitchen came from, and to take the steps to preserve that for the year. I like to know that we're taking care of our family that way.
So while nothing is better than growing your own food, I'd have to say that I choose local over organic.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Kenny and I have been talking about what our plans are for next year when the baby's born and moving on with our farm dream. If we don't move to his uncle's to begin planting, we think maybe we'll both work on Jon's farm. We'll be able to split the day in two so we could both work for a few hours, then be home with the baby while the other one went in. The convenience of living five minutes away allows that, plus I would feel a lot less overwhelmed at the thought of having him so close so we could help each other as much as possible. The thought of him working at his current job next year, in which he does twelve hour days five and a half days a week, completely overwhelmed me. I can't take care of a newborn by myself for that long! Plus, we'll both be able to learn more about planting and be a little more prepared for our own farm than we are right now.
Still, we would like to at least begin the business so we can start counting on some extra income. We're thinking about doing dried flowers to sell online and at the market, as well as perhaps doing selling some container gardens at the market. We're lucky to have a great area that is very supportive of local farms, and the farmer's market is a big deal every weekend. I guess there's really no way to tell how well we would do with the dried flowers, except to try it. The time to begin actually chasing my dreams, instead of just researching them, is fast approaching.
It's a little scary, but still exciting. :)
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I'm blessed enough to be able to work part-time right now (on an organic vegetable farm, coincidentally) which leaves me with many many open hours each week to research and prepare for next year's season; however, sometimes I just feel that I am lacking direction and wasting too much time. I wish I had something to follow, but alas, we are making our own road as we go.
Given the somewhat transient nature of the rest of our stay in Illinois (3 years, probably), we are thinking about focusing efforts on what we can grow/make and sell online -- eg, dried flowers and his woodworking. I'm researching what crops we should grow for the farmer's market next year . . . thinking just the basic vegetables and strawberries. We're planning on getting chickens, so hopefully we'll have some eggs to take as well. Eventually our plans go much bigger, with livestock and honey and perhaps some row crops to be processed (by us) into grain for market sale. Trying to figure out what we can do in three years while renting from his uncle is the difficult part.
Money is, as always, tight. We're pretty much used to it and we're finding more and more ways to get farther with less, but the difficult part is starting a business with such a small budget. What do we spend money on, and when? Thankfully seeds are cheap and a lot of internet marketing is as well, leaving us with more options in our local community.
I guess I'm just trying to figure out the plan and stick with it. It's September, so we have plenty of time to tweak our business model thankfully. I also seem to be having trouble with the research for my book, but I think that's something that will come with time. Darn us for being so impatient.
On the positive side, we're so much closer to our dreams than we ever have been. I hope that I can do enough internal exploration soon to bring some order to this blog, and our business. :)